The Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has offered a fresh impetus on how true federalism can solve the current security challenges bedeviling Nigeria and put the country on the path of accelerated development.
Sanwo-Olu said decentralisation of some exclusive functions of the Federal Government, including provision of security, would provide instant answer to the current agitations threatening the unity of the country.
This is as former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olabode George, called on Nigerians to see themselves as one and work assiduously to address national challenges, stressing that the challenges confronting the country required that all citizens work together with a common purpose.
Both men were speaking at the Freedom Online third annual lecture, held the Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja Lagos with the theme: “Nigeria: Foundation, Fundamentals and Future.”
The Governor said the emergence of “beggar-states” as the major constituents of Nigeria’s federation would not take the country to the future it desires in a world that is developing rapidly.
He said the flawed federalist ideals enshrined in the 1999 Constitution had continuously limited the power of the states to pursue individual development at their own pace, stressing that Nigeria must holistically address the “fundamental question” of federalism if the political class was serious about lifting the country out of the current quagmire.
The Governor, who was represented by his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, was the guest speaker at the event and recalled that Nigeria was administered more efficiently during the period of regional arrangement, pointing out that the feat was achieved because each region assumed autonomy on its resources and developed at its own pace without relying on handouts from the centre.
He said: “one of the legacies of military rule was the abolition of powerful and largely financially independent regional governments, and replacement with weaker entities known as States. These States were of course beholden to a very powerful central government that doled out resources to them and used every opportunity to make it clear that the states were appendages of the centre.
“At the time, the regions worked hard, earned their revenues from exports, from taxes, and so on, and kept a large chunk of what they earned. None of them came to Lagos – the then Federal Capital – with caps in hands for what we now refer to as ‘Federal Allocation’. Every region survived mainly on its internally generated revenue. There was also a healthy competition among the regions.”
The Governor stressed that provision of security must be “highly” decentralised, adding that States must play significant role in providing internal security, while the Federal Government must face the issue of defence, foreign policy, border controls, currency, and customs among others.
Sanwo-Olu also called for review of the terms of fiscal federalism between the centre and state governments, saying the Federal Government must consciously devolve more responsibilities and resources to states and local governments as those entities are the closest to the people.
He said: “Today, the revenue sharing formula is 52.6 per cent for the Federal Government, 26.7 per cent to the States and 20.6 per cent to local governments. The Federal Government takes the lion share, out-muscling the State and Local Governments, which are the closest tiers to the populace. State and local governments ordinarily should be drivers of development. As it is today, it is common knowledge that most states depend on monthly allowance from Abuja to survive.
“States should be free to control the drilling of oil and mining of solid minerals and pay the required taxes and royalties to the Federation Account. Many States really have no business being poor or suffering a cash-crunch given their huge mineral deposits. There is also no reason why States cannot generate and distribute electricity and license same, within their geographical limits. This can be done in a way in which necessary returns will be made to the Federal Government.”
In spite of challenges facing the nation, however, Sanwo-Olu said no one should lose hope of a better future, observing that the ongoing revolution in the agricultural sector and investment in infrastructure by the President Muhammadu Buhari Administration had started to gradually change the outlook of the national economy.
The Governor said ongoing reforms in agriculture must continue to sustain non-oil revenue and reduce dependency on single commodity economy.
He said: “What is clear to me is that to achieve these reforms that we require, many of our laws need to change. We need to re-write and update obsolete laws to bring them in line with the realities of today.
“We must believe in what we produce, and encourage everyone who seeks to make a difference in this regard. We must also consume what we produce. One advantage we have is our population; we have a local market that is sufficient to sustain as much local production as we can achieve. Many other countries are too small to enjoy this kind of privilege.”
Sanwo-Olu also called for increased investment in technology and innovation, which he described as the magic wand Nigeria could employ to be on the same page with global development.
Chief George, in his address, said tribalism, sectionalism, religious bigotry and others were an albatross to national development, urging citizens to shun them.
He further urged Nigerians to strive to build an ideal nation that would promote the well-being of the present generation and even posterity.
He said: “A nation is not a mere conglomeration of a space and a people. It is more.
“A nation is about agreed destiny and collective vision; a nation is about shared values with well cultivated ideals.
“It is the effortless summation of a common dream, of common truth, of common objectives, and of agreed realities.
“A nation is the spontaneous voiding of parochial limitations. It is the deliberate eclipsing of ethnic or sectarian articulations.
“It is to reside in a unifying universe where growth is measured by hardwork and merit, where human enhancement is predicated on demonstrated rallying virtues of leadership, of strength of character, of dedication to duty and repose in honour.
“We must re-assess and boldly confront what is wrong with the national architecture.
“We must work together to identify and rectify the variegated ills and the wrongs presently subsisting.”
George said the country must take the bold step to ensure devolution of power to guarantee sustainable development.
According to him, the country cannot meet the development aspirations of the people with a too strong centre and weak states.
He said the states and even the local governments had to be more empowered to bring about development.
The PDP chieftain urged Nigerians to demonstrate patriotic zeal in all they do, saying citizens must believe in the country even in the face of challenges.
He commended the Publisher of FreedomOnline, Gabriel Akinadewo, for organising the lecture, saying it has provided a platform to proffer solutions to national challenges.
Malam Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, in his speech, urged Nigerians not to give ethnic or religious colouration to the security challenges.
He urged citizens to see criminals as criminals, irrespective of where they were from.
Shehu said the Federal Government was doing everything possible to provide adequate security for all Nigerians.
Earlier, the Convener and Publisher of Freedom Online, Gabriel Akinadewo, observed that the nation’s security challenges required the collective sacrifice of all citizens, stressing that the blame game among the ruling elite would not bring about solution to the problem. He stressed that the country’s security architecture must be overhauled to address security challenges.
Akinadewo also noted that the Nigeria Police Force was efficiently run until the collapse of the Second Republic when the degradation of the police force began.
He said: “We cannot continue to use central method to tackle challenges. We need a national conversation on the current situation as the political class is challenged. Nigeria cannot afford to lag behind while the world moves at speed in development.”